Photo of barbed wire above chain-link fence

Carceral Studies Reading Group:
Marginalized Communities and the Carceral State

Mass incarceration and the crisis of criminal justice are two of the defining problems of our era. Marginalized groups — racial and religious minorities, the poor, immigrants, refugees and others— comprise most of the victims of ever-expanding carceral states.

This reading group is meant to further our understanding of the prison as a political institution that creates and sustains disparities in wealth and power. We seek to explore these issues through foundational texts about incarceration across various historical periods and social and political contexts. Our hope is that the meetings will lay the groundwork for a conference at the University of Washington on carceral practices and marginalized communities in 2022.

The interdisciplinary group is open to Ph.D. students and faculty at the University of Washington and institutions in the greater Puget Sound region. It will meet once a month — for the time being via Zoom — for a two-hour discussion of a pre-assigned reading. We will determine the times and dates of meetings based on the availability of participants.

Please fill in this sign-up form to join the group; the number of participants is limited.

You are welcome to contact the group organizers, Smadar Ben-Natan, Benaroya Postdoctoral Fellow in Israel Studies (, and Brendan Goldman, Hazel D. Cole Postdoctoral Fellow in Jewish Studies (, to learn more or make suggestions about the group.

Recommended Background Reading

Michelle Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (1995)
Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (2012)

Scheduled Meetings & Readings

Session 1. Wednesday, December 9, 2020 4-6 PM

Mathew Larsen, Early Christians and Incarceration (forthcoming)

Session 2. Wednesday, January 2, 2021, 4-6 PM

Jonathan Simon, Four Myths of the Punitive Society (forthcoming)

Session 3. Friday, February 12, 2021, 3-5 PM

Marcus Rediker, The Slave Ship: A Human History (2007), Chapter 2: The Evolution of the Slave Ship

Session 4. Friday, March 12, 2021, 3-5 PM

Michel Foucault, The Punitive Society: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1972-1973 (2015), Lectures five and Six

Session 5. Friday, April 9, 2021, 3-5 PM

Kent F. Schull, Prisons in the Late Ottoman Empire: Microcosms of Modernity (2014)

Session 6. Friday, June 11, 2021, 3-5 PM

Samera Esmeir, Juridical Humanity: A Colonial History (2012), Chapter 3: Wounds

Session 7. Friday, May 14, 2021, 3-5 PM

David Garland, Punishment and Welfare: A History of Penal Strategies (1985)

Session 8. Friday, July 9, 2021, 3-5 PM

Angela Davis, Are Prisons Obsolete? (2011)